Notre Dame to open campus two weeks early for fall semester

University of Notre Dame President John I. Jenkins says a prayer during a Saint Patrick’s Day breakfast at the Naval Observatory on March 16, 2017 in Washington, DC.

The University of Notre Dame will open its campus to students two weeks early for the fall semester, the university announced Monday.

The Rev. John Jenkins, the university’s president, told the campus community in letters that the university will begin the fall semester Aug. 10, forgo a fall break and plan on ending the semester before Thanksgiving. The university’s officials consulted for months with faculty and public health experts before coming to its decision, according to a university release

“By far the most complex challenge before us is the return of our students to campus for the resumption of classes in the fall semester,” Jenkins wrote. “Bringing our students back is in effect assembling a small city of people from many parts of the nation and the world, who may bring with them pathogens to which they have been exposed.”

The university plans to be ready to conduct coronavirus testing and contact tracing, implement quarantine and isolation protocols, enforce social distancing and mask requirements and boost the cleaning of campus spaces, according to the release. 

Notre Dame has designated facilities to potentially isolate students who test positive for the virus and to quarantine those in close contact with those patients. Faculty are directed to prepare classes for in-person and remote instruction for those who may end up in isolation and quarantine.

The testing will continue throughout the semester, but the president noted the university will adjust if a major outbreak takes place, or if Notre Dame is unable to obtain the necessary testing equipment.  

Like many universities, Notre Dame moved to online learning in mid-March and had canceled academic and summer programming through July 6. In Jenkins’s Monday letters, he said the cancellations would extend through the summer, except for a few students whose summer work prepares for the fall semester. 

Universities across the country are contemplating whether or not to plan on reopening in-person for the fall semester. The California State University system announced a cancellation of in-person instruction for the fall last week. 

Other schools like the University of Tennessee, Texas Tech University and Texas A&M University have made plans to reopen for the fall semester.

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